Total Pageviews

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Michigan Beer Label Competition Results Part 1: Ranks 30-36

As discussed in a previous post, I have ranked each Michigan brewery on its beer labeling using a composite score from 4 categories: Art, variety, creativity, and information.  Total scores can range from 4-30, with high scores indicating better labeling according to my admitting biased judgment and criteria.  Note that the quality of the beer, brewer, or brewpub has nothing to do with the scores—this is simply my assessment of the labels.  I plan to present the results in reverse order.  Here are the results for those who scored in the lower third.

Kuhnhenn Brewing Company. Total Score: 11. Rank: 36 of 36.
The worst beer labeling for a Michigan brewery was from one of my favorite breweries—Kuhnhenn Brewing Company.  This brewery makes a wide range of really great beer, most of which are available only at the brewery and have no labels at all.  They do however sell some of their beer in bottles, most notably 4th Dementia Olde Ale and Winter Solstice 9. 
I like the play on “dimension” vs “dementia” and they got credit for that bit of creativity.  The labels, however, look like they were done by someone learning how to use a drawing program on their computer.  The labels are, well, rather boring.  They put the alcohol content on the bottles so this scored them some points, but the variety was very low.  I hope that Kuhnhenn starts to bottle more of their beer and once they do, I’m sure the labeling deficiencies will be addressed.

Wolverine State Brewing Company: Total Score: 15; Rank: 35 of 36.
With a score that was close to the worst, another wonderful Michigan brewery, Wolverine State Brewing Company, is not paying due attention to their beer labels Wolverine State makes a wide range of really great beer, most of which can only be purchased at the taproom or various restaurants.  They do bottle and sell at least 4 varieties of beer.  The basic graphics among the labels, with some exceptions, is very similar—the brewery logo, an outline map of Michigan, and the beer style.  The different styles have different colors and none of the beers have their own names (they are simply named by their style).   

The one exception is “Massacre,” which was only sold at the brewery late last year.  This beer has a label that depicts the scratch-mark “W” logo on a wood panel, and a neck that was dipped in wax.  The concept was still not that artistic, but a strong step in the right direction.  Wolverine puts the alcohol level on their labels and their web address, but could be more informative.  The variety and creativity of the labeling schemes were clearly lacking. 

I have heard rumors that they might start bottling some of the excellent craft beers that are available in the taproom.  I hope that they rethink their labels when they expand their bottled beers. 

As a complete side note, in my research I came across a rather cool old beer bottle label (circa late 1930s) from a brewery in Pontiac, Michigan called Wolverine Brewing Company and the beer was called Dark Horse—rather ironic, given the brewery a little further down on our list.  You can see it here:
Dark Horse Brewing Company. Total Score: 16; Rank: tied for 32 of 36.
Three breweries tied for 32nd place with a score of 16.  Dark Horse Brewing Company was one of them. Dark Horse sells a wide range of beers in bottles, including several seasonal beers and one of my favorite Michigan beers, Crooked Tree IPA (I had a keg of this beer at my last birthday party).  This brewery’s labels are mostly disappointing. In the past few years, however, they have been making an effort to improve their labels.  Years ago, I remember being shocked that such good beer was being sold with such poor labels.   

The labels used to be as close to basic as one could get—black and white, some text, and a squiggly line. (Another brewery has some labels that were even more basic  More on that in a later post.)  In recent years, they have added some color and some very nice labels, such as the one for Crooked Tree IPA. The brewery has also had guest artists develop artwork for some of their labels (Scotty Karate and Perkulator are two examples), yet this artwork is not very pleasing and vaguely disturbing.  I think this would be a great idea if they changed the labels each year as is implied on the label where they say "Guest Artist #1". 

The newer labels generally include the alcohol level, but would be improved by more information such as the inspiration for some of the artwork.  For example, a brief statement about who Scotty Karate is would help us understand the artwork for that particular label.  The brewery has recently updated their once-poor website, and I think the labels are also being updated.  This is a good trend for a great brewery.

My favorite label from Dark Horse Brewing Company
 King Brewing Company. Total Score 16; Rank: tied for 32 of 36
King Brewing Company also tied for 32nd place.  I’ve had a hard time constructing the history of this brewery located in Pontiac, Michigan.  I have in my collection a few bottles from this brewery that are around 10 years old.  After that, I thought the brewery went out of business.  Indeed, their website says that they went out of business, yet I purchased some King beer somewhat recently.  Whatever their story, I included them in the competition.  

The labels from King Brewing are simply uninspired and run-of-the-mill.  I like the label for Two Fisted Ale, mainly because of the name, but the others could use a serious update.  The labels could also include more information.  If the brewery is out of business, my sincere apologies and best wishes for getting the brewery back in business.

Red Jacket Brewing Company. Total Score: 16; Rank: tied for 32 of 36.
The third brewery that was tied for 32nd was from Red Jacket Brewing located way up in the Keyweenaw Peninsula, at Calumet.  They claim to be Michigan’s most Northern brewery but I think that crown goes to Brickside Brewery in Copper Harbor, Michigan.  They only brew one beer and call it oatmeal express.  It is an oatmeal, coffee stout.  You can only get it at the brewery and they only brew in half-barrel batches. They also developed a label for the beer (Cheers to them!).  Here’s the label and a description of the beer:

The label itself is fairly interesting with a railroad theme. I gave them 6 out of 10 for artistry and creativity.  There is obviously no variety.  The label itself has little information past the name of the beer, but since it was not meant to stand alone as would a beer bottle label, I judged the information category by what was on the website.  They include a lot of information about the recipe and the history of the beer. But, unfortunately, this description has no hard facts about alcohol level or bitterness, so points were lost for this.  It would be interesting to visit this place sometime.   

Cheboygan Brewing Company. Total Score: 17; Rank tied for 30 of 36.
Two more breweries round out the ranking of 30th or worse with total scores of 17.  One of these is the Cheboygan Brewing Company. The labeling scheme is tight and efficient, but not very inspiring nor creative.  The beers generally lack their own name (they are generally named by the beer style), which means it can be hard to be creative. 

I like the Lighthouse Amber label, but there is little variety across the labels. I believe that only the Lighthouse Amber is sold in bottles, so I judged the information content on the other labels based on the text accompanying them on their website:  There was generally good information, so high points there.  There is room for improving these labels.  I have only tried the Lighthouse Amber and I thought it was tasted good and was well brewed.  You don't have to take my word for it--it says so right on the label.
My favorite label from Cheboygan Brewing Company
Big Rock Chophouse and Brewery. Total Score: 17; Rank tied for 30 of 36.
Big Rock appears to have several beers that they bottle and sell out of the brewery/restaurant.   I have none of their bottles in my collection and could find little on the Internet past what they have on their website:   

The labels are pretty good, but not outstanding.  I like the stylistic artwork and there is some variety across the labels.  Without having actual examples of the labels, I judged the information content based on the website.  The information that they have is good, but where is the ABV%? I really fail to understand why some breweries do not include this information for their patrons.  My favorite label from this brewery is Platinum Blonde Pilsner, with its stylistic Marilyn Monroe icon. 

Look for more results on my next post.


No comments:

Post a Comment